According to the New York Times trend piece, living alone can make you crazy. Seriously, that’s what it says. And here I was thinking that living with a house full of kids and a thankless husband would be a nightmare…
Steven Kurutz, the writer of the Times piece, says that 1 in every 4 American households is occupied by someone living alone. While the benefits are plentiful including the freedom to come and go as you please and the space and solitude to recharge one’s batteries, Kurutz says that the single-occupant home lacks the certain social checks and balances required to keep folks on the straight and narrow. As such, living alone can also be a breeding ground for “Secret Single Behavior. ”
What classifies as Secret Single Behaviors? Well Kurutz uses examples in the form of two people who live alone, who have eccentricities such as running in place during TV commercials; speaking conversational French to themselves while making breakfast; singing Journey songs in the shower; sustaining oneself largely on cereal, nuts and seeds; turning your dryer into a makeshift dresser (because you are too lazy to take the clothes out of the dryer and put them in its proper place), and never closing the bathroom door when…er… handling your business. All this kind of makes you crazy.
Wait, why would you need to close the bathroom door if you live alone? Perhaps Kurutz has never thought about the serial killer, who is waiting to break into your home and plans to sneak up on you while you take care of business on the toilet. He can’t sneak up on you if you see him coming. Or at least that is what I got from watching lots of horror films. All alone. By myself. Hmm, maybe he has a point.
I mean I do talk to both my cat and dog, although it is only my dog Coltrane who pays attention to what I’m saying. And yeah, at times while watching television, I do talk to myself but that is only because I tell funny jokes and it would be rude not to laugh. And okay, I admit it; Lucky Charms taste just as good for dinner as much as they do for breakfast. But is that really eccentric? I mean, I am sort of socially inept out in public, so perhaps my chosen home-based solitary confinement is the source for my own social awkwardness? Nawh, I don’t think so.
For me, living alone is an escape from the outside world. There is a lot of psychiatric illness out there, particularly if you live in the city. Places with denser populations also mean that folks are constantly subjected to bright lights and loud noises, poor environmental climates, crime, high taxes, low wages, long work schedules, proper protocols and greater socioeconomic divide. As such, it is easy to develop or become at-risk for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia. In fact, in a study of more than 7,000 people in the Netherlands, investigators found that both full-blown psychotic disorders and milder psychosis-like symptoms were more common among those living in urbanized areas. So perhaps having your own personal space, which requires you to spend at least a few hours a day away from other people, might be the therapy that some folks need to not only decompress but also to act out all of those “eccentricities” without fear of looking odd or crazy out in public.
And there are definitely fun perks to living alone. Like being able to walk right into the house, unhinge the bra and throw it on the couch without worrying that someone is going to chastise you for not putting your clothing in the hamper. Like lounging around on my couch, channel flipping and doing absolutely nothing productive without someone saying, “is that what you did all day?” Yes, it is and l liked it a lot. Like cooking unbalanced meals such as corn on the cob, skittles and pita bread and eating it all with my fingers. Like not having to rush to do the dishes or vacuum or even make my bed. Like walking around the house in mixed matched sweats, holey socks and drawers or naked if I want. The possibilities of all the crazy stuff you can do at home, by yourself, are both endless and awesome.
Of course, you can have too much of a good thing. And while I do cherish my moments of solitude, I’m also aware that long periods of time alone can make me feel like I’m becoming lazy and going crazy- especially if Coltrane, my dog, refuses to talk to me. I do have to remind myself to clean, to get off the couch and be productive and social with real people outside of my abode and to eat something nutritious. But that’s when individual accountability and responsibility come into play. If a grown up has to live with someone just to keep him/her in check socially, well then you are not doing it (adulthood) right.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
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